Monday, November 22, 2010

Who better knows clay, the geologist or the potter?

--- Thomas Kasulis, proposing an analogy for the difference between Western and Japanese philosophy, quoted in his interview on the Philosopher's Zone

From the transcript:

Alan Saunders: When you wrote to us here at The Philosopher's Zone about your forthcoming book, Engaging Japanese Philosophy you use a nice analogy that I'd like to repeat here: 'The easiest way to think of the difference between Western and Japanese philosophy is to ask who better knows clay, the geologist or the potter?' Now for the most part, modern Western philosophy sides with the geologist. While for the most part Japanese philosophers have studied with the Potter. Both traditions recognise both kinds of knowing, but there is a marked difference in emphasis as to which is the more profound.
Thomas Kasulis: That's right, and that's why I call the book Engaging Japanese Philosophy because I think that in modern Western -- mediaeval Western is kind of interestingly different in some ways, and some ways also the ancient traditions, or some of them -- but in the modern West, what we might consider from 1600 on and certainly since the enlightenment, from 1800 on, that Western model has been one of objectivity, detachment, observation, and logical reflection. Whereas in many cases Japan's model has been one of engagement.
Both traditions agree that both are kinds of knowing, I think. I don't think there's any problem there. But the issue is which is the really important kind of knowing?